This California-inspired wine bar, which doubles as a retail shop and art gallery, provides an escape from the nearby Galleria. Midnight blue walls showcase impressive contemporary art like Michael Gorman’s "Red Bull" mixed media on canvas, which goes for a cool $24K. If that's out of your budget, there's a five-page global wine list: Northern and Central California options are aplenty and categorized by grape, while European wines are easily perused by country. Everything is available by the bottle—bottles to take home are half off the listed price—with wines by the glass ranging from $7 to $20. The food menu boasts snacks from salads and paninis to two of the most popular items: Pizza ($13.95, $8.99 during happy hour) tastes a bit like a re-heated frozen pie and the smoked salmon ($12.95), a decent offering served alongside baguette and a dollop of cream cheese, shallot, leek and caper-mixed sauce. Pull up one or two stools if on a date, at the long granite-topped bar and stick around for the live music, which or may not help elevate the wine in your glass. A nearby parking garage offers free for 90 minutes, just enough time to grab a flight and some light fare during happy hour (daily 4-7pm).
Good For: The draw here is the live music and karaoke nights; it can be great fun or a great pain, depending on the size of the crowd filling in the awkward space. The retail aspect of the wine bar is a great way to bargain shop and sample wines by the glass first.
The scene: Small groups burdened by shopping bags from the outdoor shopping mall across the street hunker down for a seat in the late afternoon to early evening. After 8pm, the live music kicks in and the clientele is less focused on wine.
The playlist: Tuesday through Sunday after 8pm live music pouring forth from an upstairs alcove ranges in styles from classic rock to blues and jazz.
The bartender says: Order the flatbread pizza and ask to substitute the prosciutto for the jalapeño grilled sausage—and pair with a red wine flight for $15—it’s a killer combo.
Drink this: If you’re leaning white, check out the "Eclectic" list and try the Grenache Blanc from Paso Robles' Clavo Cellars in Paso Robles ($10)—elegant, crisp, aromatic whites. If red is your poison, stick to structured, tannic, ripe fruit wines like the Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi ($14) or the Round Pond Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($15). There’s also a full bar and a just unveiled cocktail list. We like the champagne and bitters-infused Morning Star ($13)—add a splash of Port and pinch of sugar and these subtle aromatic gestures lend a refreshing new twist to a glass of bubbly. Wine flights ($15) include three generous 4-ounce pours, but can be hit or miss because the options change daily and depend on wines opened the previous night (if you’d prefer, don’t be afraid to ask for a fresh bottle). There are six German and Belgian-style beers on tap—all $6.50 except for Chimay Tripel White for $9.50, and pours are 19 ounces (just over a pint). A global list of bottle beer is available too, so why not try a Brazilian brew called Xingu Black (12 oz., $7.25) as it’ll probably taste better than you can pronounce it.